I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about setbacks. Mainly because recently, I’ve faced one of my own. The kind of setback that makes you take a step back to reevaluate where you are heading and wonder how you are going to get there.
Setbacks are defined as slowing the progress of, hindering or delaying. It is anything that makes YOU feel a change in progress.
I think sometimes we discredit our setbacks because we don’t think they meet the “criteria” or we compare our experience to someone else. We struggle to give ourselves permission to face setbacks. Or even to recognize our setbacks at all. But if we place how we’re feeling under the rug, we miss the lessons we can learn. The lessons that come from the growing pains.
We fight with our human nature to hold onto hope when things feel uncertain. We wonder how to show up where God has placed us when we feel disqualified and discouraged. If you are finding yourself in the middle of a setback, I hope the following questions can help get the conversation started. No setback comes with a set of rules or a timeline for how to get through it. Some setbacks will not make sense to us on this side of Heaven. And that’s okay.
Take some time to write down your answers, pray about them and talk about them with someone you trust. In the era of the highlight reel, it can feel like you are the only one wrestling. Can I assure you of something? We all have setbacks. You are not alone!
Question 1: How Do I *Actually* Feel About This Setback?
When a setback strikes, cue the introspection. It’s an opportunity to look inside and see what emotions bubble up to the surface. Our emotions get shuffled up easily – even on our best days. It’s easy to miss what we are actually feeling when we’re overwhelmed (or not paying attention).
You can feel shocked, sad, unsure, curious AND hopeful all at the same time. Confusing, right? Taking the time to untangle each one – one by one? It makes a difference in being able to name how the setback is affecting you. It helps give you permission to be feeling what you are feeling without needing to justify WHY you are feeling that way.
After taking some time to really think it over, perhaps you will see the thread that ties each emotion to the other. Maybe they are more connected and less confusing than you think.
Prompt: Start by listing out everything you're feeling. No filter needed. No explanation required.
Question 2: What Do I Do About This Setback?
You’ve got a list of your emotions. Now what? With every setback comes an opportunity to change direction. It can be difficult to get to the place of willingly doing so, especially if you’re experiencing disappointment or grief. There is no rush to feel ready. But what are some simple things you can do to help yourself through this setback?
Is it talking to someone you trust? Saying a proper goodbye to the future you thought you were heading towards? Writing out a prayer you continue to pray daily because finding new words feels hard? Choosing one small thing to help you make new strides is actually a BIG thing. Even if it feels slow and daunting, you are still moving!
Prompt: Do a brainstorm of some things you can do about this setback. It doesn't need to be big. In fact, the simpler the better.
Question 3: What Beauty Can Be Found In This Setback?
There is a lot of beauty to be found when we allow ourselves to sit, and even wrestle, with the shifting tides. When I think about my recent setback as something the Lord has for me, it helps me find a fresh perspective. Even our toughest setbacks shine a light on this beautiful truth: the Lord is near and present. He will never leave or forsake us. He sees the bigger picture that we cannot see. Embracing beauty doesn’t discredit the hard, it just helps us lean into gratitude. And once we start counting our blessings, we realize how much there is to be thankful for.
Prompt: Write out a list of things that you are grateful for. There is so much beauty to be found if we let ourselves see it.
Final Thoughts About Setbacks
When I think about my recent setback, I think about how I would have never willingly put myself in this position. I’m going in a new direction I would not have picked for myself. But the fact that God chose it for me? I have confidence His plan is the better than the one I would have chosen for myself. It has taken some time, but I’m realizing there is likely something important I would have missed out on if it weren’t for this setback. And I can truly say I’m eager to see what God has ahead – even in my own uncertainty!
How do you feel about this quote? “Setbacks are setups for what is next“. Take it if it’s helpful – toss it out the window if it’s not!
You are loved!